Zaire's High School Career Ends Early
While Notre Dame was in the midst of playing a three-overtime heart stopper against Pittsburgh, quarterback pledge Malik Zaire was looking to extend his final high school season with a playoff win. Unlike the Irish, Zaire and his Kettering (Ohio) Alter teammates would be turned away in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year as Springfield (Ohio) Shawnee rallied for a 42-34 victory. While Zaire is still feeling the sting of the loss and end of his prep career, he also understands he'll have lifelong memories of his time at Alter. "I'm so thankful for the opportunity I had at Alter and being with the guys I was with the last four years," said Zaire. "My high school career and playing football with those guys was just an amazing experience. "What I'll remember most is my teammates and the guys around me, especially growing up and playing with some of the older guys that are our alumni now as they left their influences on me and my teammates to do great things. That is something I'll never forget and hope that I've done the same." On the field, Zaire had a strong game throwing for 273 yards and three touchdowns but was not able to give his team the miracle he'd hoped for. "The loss was hard," said Zaire. "I have a 24-hour rule to think about what we've done before going forward. However, this one is going to take a little longer than 24 hours to get over as I want to look at some of the mistakes we made just to see if we could have done better and try and progress from there." Following the game Zaire looked to be in a fog taking in his surroundings. He turned in his equipment for a final time. "It was hard but didn't really hit me until today that it was really over," said Zaire. "It was a hard experience but we all knew it was going to end at some point. It just happened a little bit earlier than I expected but it was a good experience overall. But I do feel there are a lot of things in terms of greater success coming, especially at Notre Dame, and I look forward to going over there and seeing what happens." Zaire knows many gave their time and energy to the Knights program during his four years and he leaves grateful he had a head coach, Ed Domsitz, that believed in his ability and allowed for changes to the Knights offensive attack. "The whole feeling as I've gotten older from being a freshman to now almost being an alumnus, in a sense, toward the football program, is that I was blessed as the offense was really opened up for me," said Zaire. "I was able to do a lot more things than any year before. "We were very productive and finished with our offensive unit pretty high, setting some of the school records in points scored, yards and stuff like that. There were also some individual records for most passing touchdowns and passing yards for a single season. So I feel that is pretty special and showed a lot about the choice coach Domsitz made in me in trying to make it happen. We just came up a little bit short." Now Zaire will start to prepare for his final days at Alter with his Irish official visit set for the annual banquet weekend followed by his early entrance to school in January. Much is happening quickly but Zaire feels his experience at Alter has fully prepared him. "If I can say one thing about Alter is that it mentally prepared me for all the challenges that sometimes don't always go your way at first, but you must find ways to get around them and get through them mentally," said Zaire. "I feel that is what Alter has given me more than anything that will definitely help me at Notre Dame and along the road of life." While unable to watch the Irish come from behind victory over Pittsburgh, Zaire has been paying attention to his future team and is seeing the things he feels will help the program long term. "I'm seeing a lot of belief and feelings," said Zaire. "I definitely see despite tough times they are finding a way to win. That is something that is attractive and I'm very excited to be part of that family and to be around those guys and be part of the winning tradition. "I just got off the phone with (assistant) coach (Chuck) Martin and he's telling me how they are not satisfied with what they are doing now despite the fact they are undefeated as they still have things to work on. I find that pretty exciting."